Do Computers Aid Learning?

This guest post is written by Garry Froehlich of Jellybean Tunes who publishes the weekly App Friday App Report. Garry addresses the latest findings from an international study analyzing the effects of technology in the classroom, and provides commentary about the results. Garry is also a long standing member of the Know What’s Inside program. 

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released more results from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), finding that more use of information and communication technology (ICT – they do love their acronyms) in schools does not improve reading or math scores on the PISA test for 15 year olds. The actual report runs 204 pages and has a lot of information, which the media is already spinning, but what are the actual results? From the report itself:

“Overall, the evidence from PISA, as well as from more rigorously designed evaluations, suggests that solely increasing access to computers for students, at home or at school, is unlikely to result in significant improvements in education outcomes.”

In many ways, “Do computers aid learning?” is the wrong question to ask. Technology is a tool like any other, so we shouldn’t expect that more computers equals better grades. The more important question is how to make effective use of the tools (technology) we have.

“The report leaves many questions unanswered. The impact of technology on education delivery remains sub-optimal, because we may overestimate the digital skills of both teachers and students, because of naïve policy design and implementation strategies, because of a poor understanding of pedagogy, or because of the generally poor quality of educational software and courseware. In fact, how many children would choose to play a computer game of the same quality as the software that finds its way into many classrooms around the world? Results suggest that the connections among students, computers and learning are neither simple nor hard-wired; and the real contributions ICT can make to teaching and learning have yet to be fully realised and exploited.”

“Last but not least, it is vital that teachers become active agents for change, not just in implementing technological innovations, but in designing them too.”

The OECD concludes that a new approach is needed for the use of technology in schools.

Fortunately, these results are from 2012 and the changes are already happening. Teachers, companies, developers, and parents are all involved in the creation of new models and new ideas. Technology (or any new tool) is best used when it allows us to do things that were difficult or impossible to do before. They require us to take a step back and see what we are trying to accomplish, and then to decide how, or even if, to use the tools at our disposal (see also the SAMR Model ).

With computers, and especially mobile computers like phones and tablets, the benefits are going to come from the ability to easily communicate and collaborate, access information, monitor and provide feedback, and interact with problems in new ways. Ideas like the Global Read Aloud Project, collaboration and creation of a digital book with different grade levels and classes in different parts of the country, giving kids access to iPads to monitor and improve their reading, interacting with the forces that shape the earth, continually updated textbooks, learning math skills through games with immediate personalized feedback, and of course the numerous apps we feature every week are all enabled or improved in the right ways by technology.

It’s an exciting time.

@GarryFroehlich

The Story of App Friday

The Story of App Friday: Grassroots App Marketing Powered by Encouragement and Supported by Volunteers, originally posted on Medium by Lorraine Akemann

Recently I’ve been approached with questions about the origins and history of the App Friday program. For those who are involved or interested in apps for kids, here are some details.

App Friday is a grassroots marketing program that started on here at Moms With Apps.

We were a group of parents who created apps. We thought Apple’s App Store would magically connect us with customers as soon as our first app went live on iTunes. We thought we would reach people all over the world through a single, perfectly manicured thumbnail icon. But that wasn’t often the case, so we needed to rethink the situation: how could single digit downloads for our apps increase to double, triple and quadruple digit downloads?

The idea was to collectively generate awareness by featuring an app every week along with a link exchange for cross-marketing. By putting our focus into one community-oriented blog post, we hoped to establish a network effect and thereby market our app.

As Editor and administrator of the blog, I launched the first experiment on March 18, 2010. I packed my app, “My Little Suitcase”, into the guinea pig box and set it free for a day to draw attention to the post. At the same time, all around the world, we exclaimed “App Friday!” to our social media networks. I added a link exchange by Simply Linked so other app makers could post about their apps. Everyone who posted a link, also spread the word about the freebie, and about App Friday. The posts continued weekly for several years, featuring hundreds of apps on the blog.

Facebook Pages were peaking in popularity around the same time App Friday was taking off. George Karavias, a fellow app maker from Greece, pitched in to set up and lead the Facebook page. We started hosting live events on the Facebook page called Download Parties. Developers, parents, teachers and reviewers lined up to hear about app news and deals, while gobbling up promo codes for apps. These virtual events were actively attended, and after a party, the concentrated number of downloads propelled an app’s ranking up the iTunes chart.

But the free app aspect of the program was always controversial. Some believed going free was worthwhile to generate awareness and word of mouth, sort of like a loss-leader advertising program. Others believed going free devalued their apps. There was certainly a trade-off to the strategy, and valid views on both sides. I dove into the topic at the MamaBear Tech Conference in 2013, elaborating on app store optimization trends around free promotions.

Meanwhile, the number of developers participating in App Friday increased. We could no longer fit everyone on a single blog post. Anahelena Natera of Zen Labs Apps suggested a grid layout to more evenly display the apps, and over time with the help of George Karavias and Marcel Widarto, a dedicated website and database was built to host an “App Friday Download Center”.

George and Marcel became pillars of this program, with ideas, camaraderie and technical leadership to build out the site. George even programmed an iOS app for App Friday, showcasing the weekly promotions on mobile, together with video previews for each app (very slick!). Our challenge was how to sustain energy for a time-consuming volunteer effort, while app marketplaces and social media were changing. Facebook Pages lost their organic reach, and the Page structure was no longer conducive to hosting live events. But we kept trying, and enlisted the help of wonderful technical and design contacts (thank you Giorgos and Dimitra) to improve and maintain the site.

Meanwhile, Garry Froehlich of Jellybean Tunes was publishing the App Report, another weekly post he started on the blog at Moms With Apps and then grew into syndication. He understood the linkages between the weekly marketing efforts, and advised and supported App Friday wherever possible. If you visit appfriday.com today, you will see his App Report front and center.

Julie Brannon of TELP Media has been a cornerstone of the app marketing industry for #edtech, and graciously works with Garry every week to support App Friday on social media. Under Julie’s leadership, the three of us co-hosted the first App Friday Twitter party for Back to School this past August. It was a blast to see a live audience of app enthusiasts converge once again.

Our communal #appfriday shout-out continues to ride the rails of social media, advocating for independently made and awesome educational apps. With this collaborative style of marketing, we realize it’s more helpful to support fellow app makers than to compete against each other. Since every learning objective can be reinforced in different ways, there is no “perfect” educational app. Instead, all apps work together to teach subjects like language, math, science and even music.

So next time you see or hear about App Friday, I’d love it if you could just take a moment… Do you have an app on the store? Do you know of a newly released app that you like and respect? Are you curious about new, family-friendly apps? If so, consider channeling your enthusiasm and encouragement through your networks to #appfriday, and then tune in to http://www.appfriday.com and subscribe to the email newsletter. App Friday has been around for five years, and we hope it sticks around for many more.

Extra special thanks toGeorge Karavias, Marcel Widarto, Garry Froehlich, and Julie Brannon for supporting the cause, through thick and thin.

@LorraineAkemann

App Friday Goes Mobile!

We are celebrating. The App Friday mobile app has been accepted by Apple’s App Store, and is now LIVE and available for download.

Using the App Friday app, parents and teachers are able to view demo videos to ensure apps are suitable for their children before downloading. These are organized by category to help parents easily find options that fit their learning objectives. To further assist parent and teacher evaluation, up to three review links for each app are provided.

The App Friday mobile app is free to download on the App Store. Please let us know what you think.

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App Friday was created by family-friendly mobile app developers seeking to raise awareness of kids’ educational apps. It is managed by George Karavias of Anlock Apps, Marcel Widarto of SoGaBee and Lorraine Akemann of Moms With Apps. They are supported by app makers and enthusiasts from around the globe who collaborate together. For more information, visit the App Friday website at http://www.appfriday.com.

Reference: ACT Press Release, Oct 17th, 2013

 

Preview: App Friday (dot) Com

Dear Parents, Teachers, and App Developers,

We’ve been hard at work on a new website for the App Friday Program. We finally have the appfriday.com domain, which is set to go for this Friday August 23rd. Apps with the green checkmark are Moms With Apps members, so look out for those!

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If you are not familiar with App Friday, it’s a weekly feature for kids’ educational apps. The app community gathers every week to share app news and deals. It’s a great way to check out apps for your home or classroom.

As we test the site, please let us know if you find any issues by writing info@appfriday.com. Special acknowledgement goes out to George Karavias of Anlock Apps, and Marcel Widarto of SoGaBee Apps – who are leading the program. More great news is coming soon, so stay tuned. Oh, and enjoy the new site!

@LorraineAkemann

Featured: Writing Wizard by L’Escapadou

This week, one of our KNOW What’s Inside™ members launched a new app for letter tracing called Writing Wizard.

About Pierre of L’Escapadou

L’Escapadou, founded in 2010, is a family design studio dedicated to creating educational and fun apps for iPad and iPhone. All of our educational apps have won the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Design, and we are proud to have sold more than 500K apps (including 50K to schools) so far. Watching our homeschooled kids learn and play is our main source of inspiration for the apps we create.

His NEW App ==> Writing Wizard

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From App Store Description: Writing Wizard is designed to help every child learn how to trace through a system carefully designed to maintain motivation. The app is fully customizable to suit every child’s needs, and lets you check their progress through a system of reports and profiles. Kids want to have fun, and Writing Wizard offers a lot of fun to keep them motivated in the learning process.

• They can trace using 26 animated stickers and sound effects
• Once tracing is complete, they can interact with them on 4 games that animate letters
• They can trace any word – like their name – as the app is customizable
• They can collect stars in 5-Stars play mode

YouTube demo : http://bit.ly/writingwizardvideo

Don’t Miss App Friday August 9th

For more apps, visit http://www.appfridayparty.com, every Friday! Here is a link to the Download Center for August 9th.

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More from Moms With Apps

If you are visiting for the first time, welcome to Moms With Apps. We are a community of mobile app developers who create family-friendly apps. We just launched a new program called KNOW What’s Inside™, which is a reminder for parents and developers to think about how apps work before they are downloaded. For questions, email hello@momswithapps.com.

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App Friday Feature: PKCLsoft

At Moms With Apps, Friday is our favorite day of the week. Every Friday, the community gathers to promote apps for kids. This week, one of our KNOW What’s Inside™ members is participating: Peter Easdown of PKCLsoft.

About Peter of PKCLsoft

I am an Australian independent (indie) software developer, developing software for the Apple Mac OS/X, and iOS environments. Inspired by my children’s schoolwork, I created an app to help solve math problems. Since then, I’ve branched out into multiple educational and gaming apps. As a father first, privacy is a top priority.

His App ==> Tap Times Tables

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App Store Description: Tap Times Tables is a learning and skill building tool for kids in grades 4 to 6 who need some help with their Times Tables. It provides a fun, friendly interface that enables kids to improve their knowledge of the all-important Times Tables in an interactive and encouraging manner. It uses positive reinforcement to help the kids move forward with their learning.

More from App Friday

For more apps, visit http://www.appfridayparty.com, every Friday! Here is a link to the Download Center for August 2nd.

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More from Moms With Apps

If you are visiting for the first time, welcome to Moms With Apps. We are a community of mobile app developers who create family-friendly apps. We just launched a new program called KNOW What’s Inside™, which is a reminder for parents and developers to think about how apps work before they are downloaded. For questions, email hello@momswithapps.com.

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App Friday Feature: Jellybean Tunes

At Moms With Apps, Friday is our favorite day of the week. Every Friday, the community gathers to promote apps for kids. This week, one of our KNOW What’s Inside™ members is participating: Garry Froehlich of Jellybean Tunes.

About Garry

Launched in 2010, Jellybean Tunes grew from the dreams of a mom and dad raising a young child and excited about the potential of technology in education, creativity and fun. Based in Vancouver, Canada, we create apps with a focus on music and more. From the very beginning we’ve had a strong commitment to privacy and we’re thrilled that our signature app, Jellybean Tunes, has been embraced by thousands of educators and parents worldwide.

His App ==> Jellybean Tunes

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App Store Description: Made by the parents of a budding young musician, Jellybean Tunes introduces children to written music. Big, colourful notes, buttons and backgrounds present music in an engaging and fun way suited to younger hands. Playing songs by touching notes on the staff shows children where the notes are, what sounds they make, and what letters are associated with them. The lessons take learning a step further by gently presenting basic music theory. The editor allows freedom to explore and create music, further reinforcing musical concepts.

More from App Friday

For more apps, visit http://www.appfridayparty.com, every Friday! Here is a link to the Download Center for July 26th.

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More from Moms With Apps

If you are visiting for the first time, welcome to Moms With Apps! We are a community of mobile app developers who create family-friendly apps. We just launched a new program called KNOW What’s Inside™, which is a reminder for parents and developers to think about how apps work before they are downloaded. For questions, email hello@momswithapps.com.

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App Friday Feature: Corvid Apps

At Moms With Apps, Friday is our favorite day of the week. Every Friday, the community gathers to promote apps for kids. This week, one of our KNOW What’s Inside™ members is participating: Laura Bangerter of Corvid Apps.

About Laura

Laura Bangerter is the one mom show behind Corvid Apps. Based in the greater Seattle area, Laura lives with her husband and two daughters. She has been writing software for over 10 years and launched Corvid Apps in 2012. The iPhone/iPad and Android apps she creates tap into the joy of play, combined with the efficiency of technology, to provide children an enjoyable way to explore and learn.

Her App ==> Kids Sequences

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App Store Description: Engaging fun observational math game to practice counting by 1’s, 2’s, 3′, 5’s and 10’s as well as other sequences and patterns. Complete the sequence puzzles to work through the levels to free the good monster aliens that were kidnapped by the bad monster aliens. Recognizing and analyzing patterns and sequences is a foundational skill for math, literacy and science. For kids ages 5-8. Specially priced for App Friday July 12th.

More from App Friday

For more apps, visit http://www.appfridayparty.com, every Friday!

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More from Moms With Apps

If you are visiting for the first time, welcome to Moms With Apps! We are a community of mobile app developers who create family-friendly apps. We just launched a new program called KNOW What’s Inside™, which is a reminder for parents and developers to think about how apps work before they are downloaded.

Weekly News: May 31st

App Friday Download Center

We are celebrating App Friday with Bo the Giraffe of Heppi Apps. Created by a mom-with-app from the Netherlands, the Heppi Apps just surpassed their 50,000th download. Way to go Esther, and thanks for making your apps available for FREE this Friday!

View all apps on the App Friday Download Center

Jellybean Tunes App Report: Volume 82

The illustrations of this new educational app caught my eye. The app, called Birdstown, has activities for each of the 15 birds in the app. The lessons are geared toward children who are learning to read.

View all apps on the Jellybean Tunes App Report

Developers, Get Ready for COPPA

The new Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act will be enforced starting July 1st. This means the Federal Trade Commission will hold app developers accountable who are collecting personal information from children under 13 without obtaining parental consent. Please don’t get caught off guard. If you have not done your homework, start by taking a close look at your apps while reading the COPPA FAQs to see if these new regulations apply to you. We’ve recently been informed Push Notifications are covered in the regulation (FAQ #80).

Meet us on Facebook!

The kids’ app community gathers on the App Friday Facebook page every week (peak time at 10:00am San Francisco time). Stop by to share your news!

Link Exchange

If you have app news, please post the URL below. (Hint: when you enter the URL, completely delete the  “http://” or else the link will break.)

Weekly News: May 24th

App Friday Download Center

With a fourth grader who does homework assignments using Google Docs, sometimes I feel like we’ve skipped a step by going straight to laptops without typing practice. This week, there is an app for that!

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View all apps on the App Friday Download Center

Jellybean Tunes App Report: Volume 81

If you are a Scrabble fan looking for some math practice, this week’s volume of the App Report has a solution waiting for you.

View all apps on the Jellybean Tunes App Report

Community News

Meet us on Facebook!

The kids’ app community gathers on the App Friday Facebook page every week (peak time at 10:00am San Francisco time). Stop by to share your news!

Link Exchange

If you have app news, please post the URL below. (Hint: when you enter the URL, completely delete the  “http://” or else the link will break.)